Turbulent times for teachers

JONATHAN CARSON
Last updated 05:00 21/11/2012
Hundreds of Waikato teachers stage a public protest
MARK TAYLOR/ Fairfax NZ
OUT IN FORCE: Hundreds of Waikato teachers stage a public protest in response to the Government’s latest employment offer and contentious education policies.

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About 400 primary school teachers marched on the streets of Hamilton yesterday to protest against the Government's controversial plans for education.

Holding "Stand up for our kids, protect our schools" signs and chanting, they paraded along Seddon Rd and occupied the roundabout where it intersects with Rostrevor St about 3pm.

It was a fitting location to stage a rebellion - directly opposite the office of National MP Tim Macindoe, a former deputy principal.

"Performance pay," one woman bellowed over a megaphone. "No way!" the crowd shouted back in a military-style call and response.

It has been a turbulent year for education and it was only a matter of time before the anger, fear and uncertainty gave rise to public action by school teachers. Schools won the skirmish over class sizes, but controversy over national standards, the threat of performance-based pay and issues with the new education payroll Novopay are ongoing.

The protest march followed a New Zealand Educational Institute (NZEI) paid union meeting at Waikato Stadium at 1.30pm.

Primary teachers from across the region gathered to vote on the latest Education Ministry employment offer and discuss the Government's education agenda.

The message from NZEI president Ian Leckie was that the Government's plans were linked to a business model driven by cost-cutting and competition.

"The reforms that have been placed before the people of New Zealand are, in fact, destructive to the sort of education that's important for our kids, rather than constructive."

He said a number of claims in the Government's employment offer had been "rejected wholeheartedly" across the country, with only a small number of teachers accepting the terms at other meetings.

The NZEI said many of the claims, including increasing the time it would take a teacher to progress through the pay scale and introducing a "subjectively determined bonus" for one teacher at each school, could pave the way for performance-based pay.

"We're strong on it, we're united on it and we're now asking our negotiating team to go back to the table," Mr Leckie said.

The NZEI will put forward its own career path model for teachers during negotiations with the Education Ministry.

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- © Fairfax NZ News

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